Come On, Let's Go.

Ghost Hardware

I previously described tool-assisted speedruns in this post. To summarize, this breed of speedrunners use special emulation tools which alter the speed of the game; anything from slowing the game down to play it frame-by-frame to rewinding a live game is possible -- the latter mechanic has been adapted into games like Prince of Persia and Braid. Combining these abilities with glitches let the user create a speedrun far faster than any human being playing the game in real-time.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

These speedrun is not recorded as a video, but rather a series of button presses timed to the game. These recording can be used to replicate the speedrun on any computer with an emulator capable of reading it. Now, an Instructables member named pjgat has taken speedruns into the real world. Using an Arduino board wired into the controller, the speedrun's button presses are sent directly into the NES hardware. The game is in no way modified; there's just a robot at the wheel.

Co. Instructables/pjgat09

As you can see by the comments, there is some talk about this being a hoax. Most of the weirdness can be attribute to faulty collision detection -- it is, in fact, a game from 1985, a commenter helpfully points out -- but I'm still not sure why the NES boots so fast. So here is the video:

...and a Super Mario Bros. 3 which is slightly faster than the one mentioned in the previous post:


Fourier Transform

I don't understand how cameras work very well, so I can't tell you exactly what is happening. However, there's a very good explanation here. Me? I just appreciate the hell out of the visuals.

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Fingering the Rosary Beads

Someone recently asked for some acoustic guitar jams and I suddenly remembered Kaki King existed. After six years of EPs and at least a single year living on the road, she collaborated on the 2008 Black Pear Tree EP with the Mountain Goats. I saw them live on the tour and she was incredible. I have never before, or since, heard a guitar virtuoso who can do something that isn't the aural equivalent of a public masturbator/trenchcoated flasher. She's good and she's fun and clearly more interested in making a good composition rather than just show off her chops -- especially considering that part comes out anyway. This is the composition that really won me over during the live set; if I am not incorrect, she designed that guitar herself.:

Here's my favorite song off Black Pear Tree:


Gute Vaynakhtn

It's pretty much an open secret that I love Christmas. It's inappropriate enough as a Jew to love the birth of our their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so imagine how I feel about it being a secular Jew. I grew up watching Christmas specials on TV, and considering I watched at least six to eight hours of television a day growing up, that was a lot of Christmas specials. In school, we had regular class stage productions and sing-a-longs, so the lyrics to most non-religious carols are permanently ingrained.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when a few years ago I learned that many, many of my beloved Christmas carols were written by Jews! Sure, they might not have celebrated the holiday -- although, some may have; the Hanukkah thing is pretty recent (it is by no means a High Holiday) and so is relating Christmas to Jesus outside of the home -- but they acknowledged and appreciated it enough. Sure they were selling these songs like hotcakes made of crack, but that little idealistic part of me that truly believes in the immortality of art takes over this time of year and I'd like to think that no song can get as popular as these without being genuinely inspired by the spirit of whatever the hell it is that Christmas is all about (I couldn't tell you myself as the hours and years of Christmas specials have gone all Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius/Simulacra and Simulation in my head.)


Turned To Steel

I was recently turned on to ArcAttack's latest video. For those unaware of ArcAttack's electric glory, they are an Austin-based “high-tech musical collaborative” who play a number of instruments, with the Singing Tesla Coil – invented by the group – at the forefront. They've even been featured on television, getting to the fifth season semifinals of America's Got Talent. Their latest video is either a reprise or practice performance of their final song on the show, but there's something very different about it. Rather than on a stage complete with audience, polished effects, &c, it's more much more intimate. It feels like the equivalent of MTV's old “Unplugged” series. Anyway, here it is:

Now compare that to one of their first videos, from February of last year:

Here's hoping they only get better.


High Holy Beats

Today is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is the entirety of my knowledge of the holiday. In fact, I had no idea it was today until I spent fifteen minutes outside of the Physics lecture hall before realizing that the building was empty and no one was going to show up. Not that I'm bitter.

Anyway, I might know next to nothing about Judaism, but I sure do like some of the newer klezmer acts on the music scene. Like Geoff Berner, whose Klezmer Mongrels will continue to be one of my favorite albums of all time. Here, however, is Whiskey Rabbi, the title track off one of his other albums:

And here's Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird with “Yossel Ber,” a Yiddish song that I have been told dates back to the 1940s.

And, finally, the Russian group Nayekhovichi with “Borsht.” A trilingual (English, Yiddish, Russian) live version of this song, entitled “Borsht Revisited,” appears of Daniel Kahn's album Partisans & Parasites:


Memories of the White Lodge

Growing up without a father was – hell, still is – oddly paradoxical. There was no big gaping hole where Dad should have been. While my mother had two subsequent husbands and a long-term boyfriend, none of them were filling (or were asked to fill) that particular role for me. On the other hand, father-son relationships on TV, although never in real life, really got to me. The most striking example I can remember was in an episode of Twin Peaks. Major Garland Briggs, played by Don S. Davis, recalls a vision he had to his rebellious son Bobby. His character's mixture of Adult Seriousness and the incredibly sincere, even wide-eyed, show of emotion buried itself in my heart like a hot stake. The reaction of his son, who is usually a colossally unrepentant bastard, made it hit all the harder.

Don S. Davis died 2 years ago today.

Now, I don't want to drag you down too much, so here's everyone's favorite Russian surf rock/psychobilly/whatsit band Messer Chups with “Twin Peaks Twist.”


Drunk On Your Awe

Co. Stereogum

Just this May, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel played a set at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. I missed it. I don't remember why I missed it, but I'm almost entirely sure there's a good reason. It may have been having no idea he was playing a show. I sincerely hope that was it. The set was part of a benefit for musician Chris Knox, who suffered a stroke in 2009. A benefit album was cut, which included the following cover of Knox's “Sign the Dotted Line” by Mangum. This is the first Jeff Mangum release since the 2001 concert at Jittery Joe's in Athens, GA:

As far as the concert goes, there were no cameras allowed. Fortunately, we live in the future where everyone's telephone happens to have one built into it. To the best of my ability, I've cobbled together Mangum's set (sans the encore, consisting of "Engine") on YouTube. Enjoy!:


Just Because You Can

Co. A Softer World.

Last summer, I took some time off work and spent a couple weeks in Copenhagen, visiting a pair of friends. One evening, while I was having some quiet time, a neighbor decided to start blasting Gary Jules' version of “Mad World.” You know, that song from the end of Donnie Darko. Now, I can't stand hearing that song and tend to evacuate whatever space it is being played in as fast as possible. Certainly, this wasn't as egregious as the time I heard it mixed into a set at a New Year's Eve drum and bass party, but the heartless bastard had the audacity to keep the track on repeat for at least twenty minutes. After a few extra seconds of silence at the end of a replay, I realized the torture had come to an end and immediately took my revenge. I plugged my computer into the house speakers and turned the volume up just high enough that I knew he could hear it from his apartment. For the next twenty minutes, neighbor-guy was subjected to the one song I can listen to on endless repeat, for just as long as he forced me to listen to his jam:


I Will Always Be Against (Pt. 2 of 2)

On May 9th 1991, 24-year-old poet and singer Yana Stanislavovna Dyagileva (Яна Станиславовна Дягилева,) known then to her friends and now publically as Yanka (Янка) left her Novosibirsk country home. On May 17th, Her body was by a fisher man found in the Inya River. The investigation revealed absolutely nothing with regard to the cause of death, but who knows how it was affected by her publicly anti-government sentiments and association with the underground Soviet punk scene (not to mention her marriage to Grazhdanskaya Oborona’s Yegor Letov.) Yanka was no stranger to retribution by the Soviet government.

Yanka’s albums were released posthumously, although a number of them were recorded. During her life time, she would play underground festivals and in very small, intimate shows called kvartirniks (Квартирник, “apartment gig.”) Fortunately, there is a very comprehensive tribute website. Unfortunately, for most of my readers, it is entirely in Russian. Here are dozens of photos taken of Yanka and Grazhdanskaya Oborona during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Here is a (legal) archive containing all her albums and recordings. I suggest starting with Prodano! (Продано!, Sold!)

Her lyrics were full of pain and injustice, both personal and to the country as a whole. As far as “punk” goes, she was more in line with Patti Smith – no overtly shocking image, but songs full of razorblade insights. In “Po Tramvaynim Rel'sam” (“По трамвайным рельсам,” “Down the Railroad Tracks,”) a song of prison/gulag escape, she sings: “We have to be able to, in two seconds, dive into the ground,/To stay and lay there when the gray cars go after us,/That drive away with them those who couldn't or wouldn't lay in the filth.” Here is her performing it live at the Cherepovets Rock-Acoustic festival in 1990, just a year before her death. A friend and I translated the lyrics here, albeit they retain nothing of the original poetry.

From the same concert, here is "Rizhskaya" (“Рижская,” a street in Moscow.) A few years ago I had written a MetaFilter post about Yanka and a very kind user has translated the lyrics.

He also translated the lyrics to "Ot Bolshogo Uma" (“От большого ума,” "From Being Too Smart.")

So that is the legacy left behind by Yanka. You can read more about her here and listen to more of her music, streaming, on her posthumous MySpace page. YouTube user Faustua has a number of videos of her and Grazhdanskaya Oborona both. Unfortunately, there are very few actively-written translations of her songs, but you can always throw the Russian lyrics into Google Translate (or ask me directly.) Enjoy!

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